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Exam Watchdog Probes 'Impossible Questions'

Exam Watchdog Probes 'Impossible Questions'

2:05am 1st July 2011
(Updated 3:04pm 1st July 2011)

England's exam watchdog Ofqual has launched an official inquiry into blunders in this summer's GCSE and A-level papers that affected up to 100,000 students.

The inquiry, which will be carried out with Ofqual's fellow regulators in Northern Ireland and Wales, aims to discover exactly how the mistakes found their way into the exams and "hold the awarding organisations to account".

Pupils sitting the tests were faced with apparently impossible questions in some cases.

Sandra Burslem, deputy chairwoman of Ofqual, said: "We have made it clear that the errors on exam papers this summer are unacceptable.

"Ofqual's priorities during the exam season were to make sure the awarding organisations did everything possible to prevent further errors and to make sure that, where errors have occurred, the marking of papers neither unfairly advantages or disadvantages the candidates involved.

"Now that the taking of exams is over we turn our attention to an inquiry. This will hold the awarding organisations to account for their mistakes by finding out the root causes of the errors and what needs to be done to put things right.

"The regulators will not hesitate to take regulatory action as necessary at any stage to protect the interests of students."

A total of 10 mistakes - two printing errors, and eight problems with the questions themselves - are being investigated by Ofqual, in partnership with CCEA in Northern Ireland and DfES in Wales.

Around 100,000 candidates are believed to have been faced with the mistakes, which included a multiple choice question with four wrong answers on an Edexcel AS-level biology paper and an unanswerable question on a maths AS-level paper set by OCR.

The question, which was worth eight marks, 11% of the paper, was impossible to solve as it was incomplete.

The inquiry, which could lead to regulatory action, is being held with the intention that such mistakes never happen again.

A report into the matter is due to be published by the end of the year, once the inquiry is complete.

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